Tag Archives: crimini mushrooms

Bring on Fall…Spinach Alfredo Casserole

There are signs of Fall all around us. The trees (those that can) are beginning to show their autumn paletes of red and gold. The vibrant petunias and impatiens of Summer are being replaced by more subtly colored and hardier mums. Squirrels are hunting and burying with gusto. Kitchens are beginning to fire up the ovens as often as firing up the grill.

In case you haven’t guessed, I love Fall. It is my favorite time of year. Those of you who only know it is Fall by the month on the calendar or the inexplicable appearance of pumpkin spice everything, are missing quite an experience. Whatever the weather is where you are, it is time to think about making those comfort filled one dish wonders, casseroles.

Here is one to get your autumnal juices flowing. This starts quite simply with penne pasta as a base, but any cut pasta would do. Baby spinach and crimini mushrooms team up with onion and garlic to give some plant presence to the dish.

The sauce is Alfredo. You can make this sauce, and it is really quite easy, or you could buy pre-made sauce which is even easier. I am not a proponent of prepared foods in general, but once in a while it doesn’t compromise my integrity too much to reach for a jar or carton. Find one with an ingredient list that has things you can easily identify and not too many non-food additives. They are out there.

The vegetables were sautéed in a little olive oil, taking turns based on cooking time. Once everything was as it should be, the sauce was added. Once it was at a bubble some asiago cheese went in. Th penne was added and everything went into a good-sized casserole.

I gave it a blanket of cheesy breadcrumbs and let it bake until it displayed all of the requisite casserole characteristics; bubbly edges and golden brown crust. It was delicious, it made the house smell wonderful, and it was the perfect comfort food for the first chilly night of the season.

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Spinach Alfredo Casserole


Servings: 4
Ingredients
  • 8 Ounces Penne Pasta Any cut pasta will work
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Mediium Onion Chopped
  • 8 Ounces Crimini Mushrooms sliced
  • 4 Cloves Garlic Chopped
  • 6 Ounces Baby Spinach Chopped
  • 1-1/2 Cups Alfredo Sauce Home made or prepeared
  • 1/3 Cup Milk More or less as needed
  • Salt and Pepper To Taste
  • 4 Ounces Grated Asiago Cheese
  • 3/4 Cup Bread Crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp. Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. Butter
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water 2 minutes less than the box directs. Drain and put in a 2 quart casserole dish that has been generously sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. Prepare the sauce while the past cooks

  2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil swirling to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  3. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the skillet and cook another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

  4. Add the spinach and toss well to combine. Cook 3 - 4 minutes until the spinach begins to wilt. Stir in the Alfredo sauce and continue to cook until it comes to a bubble, stirring often. If the sauce seems thick, add the milk a little at a time until you have a medium thick sauce.

  5. Turn the heat to low and add the Asiago cheese. Stir until it is completely melted. Taste and add salt and pepper as you need. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir to completely combine.

  6. Melt the butter and stir in the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese . Toss until the crumbs are well coated. Sprinkle on the top of the casserole.

  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes. The crumbs should be brown and the sauce should be bubbly. Allow to rest a few minutes before serving.

Fall likes to take its time around here. Right now it feels far more summer like. We all know that this is only a fleeting event and soon the weather will demand something from the oven. This casserole is a good place to start.

The Coming of Winter and Lentil and Sausage Casserole

Winter is creeping in, making its presence known a little more each day. I have been turning more often to heartier fare, things that cook a little longer and in the process fill the house with aromas that warm the heart as the oven warms the kitchen. This dish came about for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that there were cooked lentils in the freezer.

These lentils were left from a recipe that I adapted from Cooking Light img_2902Magazine. Dubbed “A Perfect Pot of Lentils” it lived up to its name. A pound of green lentils were flavored with garlic and shallots and seasoned with thyme, tomato paste and dijon mustard. Once they simmered for 45 minutes or so,I was in possession of a lot of very tasty lentils. There was enough for a surprisingly good Lentil Shepherd’s Pie (also adapted from Cooking Light) with more than enough left to get relegated to the freezer until another inspiration dawned. That inspiration came a few days ago in the form of a hearty Lentil and Sausage Casserole.

This casserole boasted some Chicken Italian Sausage along with Crimini Mushrooms, Onions, and Garlic. These elements were sautéed to expand their flavor before joining forces with the lentils.img_2898

Everything nestled cozily into the casserole along with some fresh rosemary, Italian seasoning, and a little chicken stock. Off to the oven it went, snuggly covered in foil. Half an hour later it smelled wonderful, but when its foil blanket was removed, it was sadly was very brown ( the color, not the effect). To remedy that and add another layer of flavor sliced tomatoes and Toscano Cheese were placed on top. A drizzle of olive oil and a return trip to the oven along with a brief shot under the broiler resulted in a much prettier offering.img_2911

It now looked good and smelled divine. All that was left to do was taste it and see if that too would be in the plus column. It was determined that we had a winner on all levels, always a good thing.img_2917

Lentil and Chicken Sausage Casserole
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Lentil and Chicken Sausage Casserole
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Put the lentils in the dish and set it aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice the sausage into 1/2" coins. Heat a medium skillet over high heat. Add the sausage slices and cook until lightly browned on one side, 3 - 4 minutes.
  3. Turn the sausage and cook another 3 - 4 minutes. When the second side is browned, remove the sausage from the pan add to the lentils in the casserole.
  4. Add the tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or so stirring often. Add some of the chicken stock if things seem dry.
  5. Once the veggies are soft and fragrant, add them along with any drippings to the casserole. Add the rosemary and Italian seasoning.
  6. Mix all the ingredients together and cover with foil. Bake in the oven for 30 - 35 minutes or until things are bubbly.
  7. Layer the tomato slices on top of the casserole. Sprinkle with the cheese and drizzle with a little more olive oil.
  8. Return to the oven uncovered and bake another few minutes until the tomatoes begin to soften and the cheese melts.
  9. Turn the oven to broil and let the casserole go 3 - 4 minutes until it is golden. Remove from the oven and let set 10 minutes before serving.
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All of these recipes have instilled a significant dose of “Lentil Love” in my soul. As winter continues to arrive, these protein and fiber rich little pulses (I learned that nifty term from the same Cooking Light article) will be making more appearances in Mama D’s Kitchen. Besides being nutritionally amazing, they are cheap, which leaves more money in the budget for Christmas Shopping…which is one more reason to give lentils and all their wonderful pulse cousins a try.

Steak Night Saturday and Porcini Pasta With Mushrooms and Cream

We have a tradition at Mama D’s house. Saturday is Steak Night. This is an inexpensive alternative to going to a pricey if not wonderful steak house. The steak is almost always a Petite Sirloin, a tender and flavorful steak that rivals a much more expensive filet at easily half the price. Many markets around here are starting to carry it and the going price is around $6.99 per pound, so you can indulge in its meaty goodness and not break the bank. Salt and pepper or a bit of Montreal Steak Seasoning is all it needs before the grill does its magic.

This isn’t about the steak…it’s about a side dish that was an inspired alternative to the potatoes I usually serve. It started with some Porcini Flavored Pasta that I found at a specialty store. I don’t often opt for these kinds of pastas, but Papa D fell in love with them and the price was right, so I thought I’d give them a whirl. I’m glad that I did.

Inspired by the earthy mushroom aroma that greeted my nose when I opened the bag, I knew that I had to add more layers of mushroom flavor to create a dish that would hold its own next to the steak. So I invited some Crimini Mushrooms and a good dose of my Porcini Rosemary Salt to the party.DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a heavenly trio that became a quartet when some shallots joined in to provide a subtle onion flavor.2015-09-12 16.39.05The mushrooms and shallots sautéed in some olive oil. I added some chicken stock to keep everything moist while keeping the fat content at bay.2015-09-12 17.15.26 After all, there would be some cream joining the pan shortly and I felt that one indulgence was enough.2015-09-12 19.25.15A good dose of fresh rosemary continued the woodsy flavor profile as the sauce thickened ever so slightly. The addition of the Porcini Rosemary Salt took the flavors to another level as the sauce continued to simmer gently until the pasta was ready. Once the pasta entered the pan the it was a few minutes to Side Dish perfection.2015-09-12 19.33.58

Porcini Pasta with Mushrooms, Rosemary, and Cream
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Porcini Pasta with Mushrooms, Rosemary, and Cream
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, but cut the time by one minute. Drain. While the pasta cooks make the sauce.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium fry pan. Add the mushrooms and shallots, and cook until the shallots are soft and the mushrooms are beginning to brown.
  3. Add about 1/3 of the stock and simmer for a few minutes until the stock is almost absorbed.
  4. Add the remaining stock and rosemary and cook 4 or 5 minutes.
  5. Add the cream and simmer for a few more minutes. The sauce should thicken slightly. Add the porcini salt and taste. If you think it needs more of the salt add a pinch or two. Add some fresh ground pepper and serve.
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It joined the grilled steak with pride and made Steak Night Saturday something very special.2015-09-12 19.44.01This dish could easily take center stage and be a delectable main dish as well, so find some Porcini Pasta, make some Porcini Salt, and welcome Fall with a dish that sings of the earth.

 

Cleaning Out the Fridge Quiche

The refrigerator is a wonderful invention. It allows us to keep a supply of fresh food at the ready. It provides a safe haven for the treasures we find at the store, keeping them safe until we are ready to turn them into something wonderful. I confess that sometimes I buy a little more than I can chew and open the refrigerator to find an array of food that has begun to lose its luster.

What’s Mama D to do? I don’t have the heart or the budget to throw it all away, and it is still quite usable. The time has come to combine things into a delicious meal and quiche is a perfect solution. Flaky pie crust and creamy custard are the blank canvas that will hold the vegetables and meats that the fridge has to offer.

This adventure included some crimini mushrooms and asparagus along with some thyme and onion. They were a bit past their prime, but perfect for this quiche.

DIGITAL CAMERAMy protein of choice was peppered bacon.  I found three lonely slices that I chopped up and browned on the stove.

The veggies were chopped and cooked in the same pan (minus the drippings, but with the yummy brown bits) to give them a little extra love before they jumped into my “not home-made” crust. Yes, the crust came out of the fridge, too. Would homemade pastry make this dish better? Maybe, but I had a box of the pre-made variety and it needed to be used,too.

Whatever pastry crust you use always “blind bake” it before you add the fillings. Once the dough has been fit into your vessel of choice, line it with some parchment paper and fill it with dried beans. Bake it in the oven until it is nice and golden. A clear glass pan allows you to check the bottom as well. Remove the beans and paper and add your fillings. No soggy bottom crust here.I topped the sautéed goodies with some grated Swiss cheese. Any cheese will work here. Use what you love or what you have on hand. Only use about a cup. The custard is rich enough and you want the veggies to be the star here.

DIGITAL CAMERAEggs, cream, and milk create a luscious custard that only requires a little salt and coarse ground pepper. I’m not a fan of nutmeg, a traditional ingredient here, but add some if it floats your boat. In fact you can add any herb, spice, etc. It’s your quiche after all.

When you are ready to add the custard to the quiche, put it on a rimmed baking sheet. This too, is a required step. The pie will be very full and eggs being eggs, it will grow before it sets. A baking sheet is much easier to clean than an oven. I speak from experience.

DIGITAL CAMERAThe quiche needs to bake for 30 – 40 minutes then it needs to set for at least 20 minutes more. Add the blind baking step and you are approaching the 2 hour mark on prep time. If you like a late supper (and this is the perfect dish for that) make it part of your weeknight wonderland. I think it’s a delightful Sunday night supper that puts a delicious topper on the weekend.

DIGITAL CAMERA

Cleaning Out the Fridge Quiche
Print Recipe
This is my version of quiche. Feel free to use whatever fillings you want.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Cleaning Out the Fridge Quiche
Print Recipe
This is my version of quiche. Feel free to use whatever fillings you want.
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
Blind Bake the Crust
  1. Fit the pie crust into a pie or quiche pan. Use a fork to poke small holes all over the crust. Place a sheet of parchment paper into the crust (crumple it a bit to allow it to fit better). Pour dried beans onto the parchment paper. A pound of dried beans will fill a 9 inch pie plate nicely.
  1. Bake the crust in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 - 30 minutes. The crust should be light golden all over. Do not rush this step; the non-sogginess of the crust depends on it. Remove the crust from the oven. Carefully remove the parchment paper and beans (these will become your official "blind baking" beans). Set the crust aside.
Filling
  1. Chop the bacon into thin pieces and cook in a medium fry pan over medium high heat. The bacon should be crisp. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Remove the drippings from the pan but leave the brown bits of deliciousness.
  2. Add the onions to the fry pan and cook for 4 minutes or so until they begin to soften.
  3. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook another 5 minutes until the mushrooms begin to brown. Add the asparagus and cook for a few more minutes until the asparagus is tender crisp.
  4. Add the reserved bacon bits back to the pan along with the thyme leaves and cook for 2 - 3 minutes more.
  5. Pour the vegetable/bacon filling into the pie crust. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top.
  6. Beat the eggs until the are very thick. Add the cream and milk and beat with a whisk until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add salt and pepper and any other spices or herbs you like.
  7. Place the filled pie crust on a rimmed baking sheet. Carefully pour the custard into the crust stopping when it is filled to the top. You may have a little custard left, but not much.
  8. Place in a 350 degree oven and bake for 30 - 40 minutes. The filling should be puffed and golden and a knife should come out clean when poked in the center.
  9. Remove the quiche from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting.
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This is far from the traditional preparation for a quiche. It doesn’t however, make it any less delicious. This is a versatile recipe that can be adapted any number of ways. Have some fun with it and come up with your own fridge cleaning masterpiece.

 

Memories of Julia…Italian Beef Stew

Beef Stew, a quintessential Winter dish, has as many variations as there are cooks. It is a comfort food that can be simple and satisfying or elegant and complex. The process is time-consuming, but the results are worth it.

I have so many memories of my mother’s cooking, but there isn’t a single one of stew. Chicken Cacciatore came closest, but that’s technically braising. My first adventure or memory for that matter, of stew was making Beef Bourguignon after watching Julia Child. I’ve made this recipe for years, but I wanted something different, so I went about putting an Italian spin on things.

Could I be breaking new ground here? Of course not. Stew goes back to ancient times, including the Romans. I did find a traditional recipe for “Peposo” a dish from Florence featuring chunks of beef, lots of black pepper, and red wine. It was invented back in the 14th century by tile makers who put these ingredients into terra-cotta pots and cooked it by the heat of the furnace. My beef stew incorporates Peposo’s ingredients and oh, so much more.DIGITAL CAMERAMy wine of choice was Sangiovese, considered by many to be the King of Italian wine grapes. It’s the principle wine in Chianti. Usually fruity but with noticeable acidity and tannins, It can hold its own in this stew as well as on the table.DIGITAL CAMERA

The beef was Chuck Eye Roast. This is lean and tender as chuck cuts go. The muscles are fairly large and can be cut up without too much difficulty. Read that as those pesky membranes are few and loose enough to be dispatched quickly. Cutting the meat yourself will save you money  and allow you to cut the pieces the size you want. I like to eat my stew with a spoon and/or fork so I opted for one and a half-inch pieces.DIGITAL CAMERA

I used bacon because I like the smokieness of it, but pancetta would work well and probably be more Italian. The bacon provided the fat to brown the meat, done in batches so that they would brown instead of steam.DIGITAL CAMERA

DIGITAL CAMERAThen came the Sofritto. My understanding of Soffrito is that while traditionally it’s the same flavor base as its French cousin, Mirepoix, it can be any combination of aromatics, and since I’m not a fan of celery, I chose to use onions, garlic, and carrots. I chopped up a good size sprig of fresh rosemary, added some fennel seeds and red pepper flakes and rounded out the aromatics with bay leaf and lemon zest.DIGITAL CAMERA

All of this went into the dutch oven now beautifully coated with brown bits. A little tomato paste and more than a little wine to de-glaze the pan and I was well on my way to creating stewing magic.DIGITAL CAMERAThe beef goes back in  along with some beef stock, water and a little more wine if you dare. Bring it up to a simmer, cover it  and pop it in a low oven (325 degrees.) In order to get the meat tender and not over cook the vegetables, let the beef cook for about an hour.DIGITAL CAMERA

When the time was right, I added the vegetables that take the longest to cook. In this case, it was yellow onions, carrots and lots of sliced garlic. I opted to add the cremini mushrooms a little bit later since they cook more quickly.DIGITAL CAMERA

The stew cooked for about two and a half hours. When it came out of the oven, the meat was tender, the vegetables were cooked, but still identifiable, and the sauce was slightly thickened and smelled like heaven. (there are worse things you could  imagine heaven smelling like).

It was now time to guild the lily. I added some sliced Kalamata olives, parsley, and fresh lemon juice. The olives added an interesting taste and texture. The acidity of the lemon juice did wonders for refining the richness of the sauce, and the parsley was pretty. DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s always nice to have some kind of starch to serve with the stew. The sauce is wonderful and it would be a shame to leave it in the bottom of the bowl. I decided to use Farro.

DIGITAL CAMERAThis Italian super grain has a slightly chewy texture and a nutty barley like taste. It cooked quickly and stood up perfectly to the hearty richness of the stew. DIGITAL CAMERA Rosemary, lemon

Some shavings of Pecorino Romano and a dusting of parsley and it was ready to serve. It was wonderful the first time, but the second day it was amazing.

Italian Beef Stew
Print Recipe
An Italian-ized version of classic Beef Stew. Make it your own with wine, vegetable, and aromatics choices.
Servings
8
Servings
8
Italian Beef Stew
Print Recipe
An Italian-ized version of classic Beef Stew. Make it your own with wine, vegetable, and aromatics choices.
Servings
8
Servings
8
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Before you begin cooking, put your cooking vessel in the oven. Adjust the rack so that the covered pot will fit and slide in and out easily. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Heat a 5 -6 quart dutch oven. Add the bacon pieces and cook until the bacon is brown, but not crisp. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Leave the drippings in the pan and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
  3. Cut the meat in 1-1/2 inch to 2 inch pieces. Dry on paper towels for at least 10 minutes (this helps the meat brown). Season the meat with salt and pepper just before browning.
  4. Brown the meat in batches turning to brown all sides. Put the browned meat into a bowl. If the pot is becoming dry, add additional olive oil. Set the bowl of browned meat aside.
  5. Add the chopped onions, garlic, and carrots to the pot and begin to cook over medium low heat. Add the bay leaf, rosemary, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, lemon zest and tomato paste. Cook, stirring often for 3 or 4 minutes. Return the bacon to the pot.
  6. Add the cup of red wine and stir to loosen the browned bits and de-glaze the pan. Continue to cook for a few minutes until things are smelling beautiful. Add the beef stock and water, (and a little more wine if you want). Bring the mixture to a boil.
  7. Add the beef and any accumulated juices to the pot. Cook until the mixture returns to a simmer. Once it is gently simmering, cover it and place in the oven. Cook covered for one hour.
  8. Remove the pot from the oven and add the onion wedges and sliced garlic. Mix gently, cover and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.
  9. Remove the pan from the oven and add the mushrooms. Stir to gently combine. Cover and return to the oven.
  10. Check the meat after 45 minutes or so. The meat should be fork tender, but not falling apart. When the meat is perfect, remove the pot from the oven.
  11. Add the lemon juice and olives. Stir to incorporate. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl or ladle into individual dishes. Sprinkle with the parsley.
  12. This can be served as is with crusty bread or on top of your starch of choice; pasta, polenta, farro, etc.
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This was worth the time it took to prepare. I’m afraid Julia’s Beouf  will have to move over, Mama D’s Manzo is joining the club.